Spurrier, South Carolina get off to slow start

It wasn’t the crisp start to bowl camp South Carolina coach

Steve Spurrier hoped for Saturday with several players finishing up

final exams and not at practice Saturday.

Spurrier said there was confusion about when his team would be

wrapped up with fall semester exams so he cut short the planned

workout as the 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) began preparations for

the Outback Bowl. The players, who hadn’t practiced since a

satisfying, 27-17 victory over rival Clemson on Nov. 24, were sent

to the weight room after about 75 minutes.

”It was a helter-skelter type practice,” Spurrier said. ”The

guys that are going to play in the game, they’re all taking

finals.”

Exams end Monday, although Spurrier expected things back on

track when the team reconvenes Sunday. Spurrier said preparations

for No. 19 Michigan, the Gamecocks’ New Year’s Day opponent, will

get going then.

Spurrier and his assistants have been on the road recruiting.

Spurrier also spent time the past week consulting with injured

Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who announced Wednesday

he’d give up his senior year in college despite a second

significant knee injury.

”Coaches have been traveling around, players taking finals and

we’ll really start getting into Michigan and getting game plans

ready,” the coach said.

South Carolina won’t have senior receiver D.L. Moore for the

bowl game because of a violation of team rules. Spurrier did not

detail what rule Moore may have broken. Moore, who started five

games this season, had eight catches for 139 yards. Two of his

receptions went for touchdowns.

South Carolina’s leading receiver, two-sport standout Bruce

Ellington, would play one final game with the basketball team

Wednesday night against Appalachian State before returning to the

football team fulltime through the bowl game.

Ellington has 38 catches for 564 yards and six touchdowns, all

coming in South Carolina’s final seven games. It was originally

thought Ellington would be all football once practice began, but

”we’re going to turn him loose and let him play” Wednesday night,

Spurrier said.

Spurrier also said injured starter Connor Shaw would return to

his role under center against Michigan, although backup Dylan

Thompson was likely to see action as early as the opening

quarter.

Shaw has a sprained left foot and missed the Clemson game.

Thompson, though, threw for three touchdowns and 310 yards in the

victory over the Tigers.

Spurrier said Shaw ran around some on Saturday and told the

coach he’d be able to practice fully in the team’s next

workout.

”We’ll just get both of them ready to play,” Spurrier said.

”See how it goes.”

If South Carolina hopes to have success against Michigan – and

reach 11 victories for a second straight season – it will need its

highly regarded defense to lock up quarterbacks Devin Gardner and

Denard Robinson.

The Gamecocks feature one of the game’s best in defensive end

Jadeveon Clowney, a consensus All-America who got four first-place

votes in Heisman Trophy balloting. One of those came from his

coach, the 1966 Heisman winner at Florida who says he’s always

votes one of his players for the award.

Clowney, a sophomore, was tied with Florida State star Bjoern

Werner for first in the country with 13 sacks, 4 1-2 of those

coming in the victory over Clemson three weeks ago. Plenty of

Heisman voters might join Spurrier next fall in putting Clowney on

their ballots with a similar season.

”Oh, I don’t need to worry about that. We’re worried about

Michigan right now,” Spurrier said. ”But it would be hard for a

defensive guy to win it, because (Notre Dame linebacker) Manti Te’o

did have a super year.”

Te’o finished second behind Heisman winner quarterback Johnny

Manziel of Texas A&M. Spurrier said he voted for Manziel and

Te’o behind Clowney.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Friday his team, too, juggled

practice and final exams. ”You go through all those kind of things

and find the times that you can” practice, he said. ”We like how

they’ve come out. I know they’ve all had good weeks, lifting and

running and technique work. It’s all been positive.”

Spurrier says his early look at Michigan shows strength on

defense and the ability to make big plays on offense. ”Hopefully,

won’t be too tough to hit a few (long) balls on, but who knows?”

Spurrier said. ”They’re a very good team.”